The State of Climate Adaptation in the Marine and Coastal United States, Territories, and Commonwealths
Climate change threatens the success and longevity of conservation, planning, and management. In marine and coastal environments, climate change-driven shifts are resulting in increasing ocean temperatures, changes in ocean chemistry, and rising seas, which affect species, habitats, infrastructure, cultures, and economies. Decision makers are faced with the challenge of developing and implementing response strategies that are suitable under changing climate conditions.
The field of climate adaptation is in a period of critical transition as it rushes to meet the needs of a growing user base struggling to address the challenges of climate change. The general concepts of adaptation have been well developed over the past decade. Now, practitioners must move from generalities to concrete actions, including implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the effectiveness of adaptation efforts. EcoAdapt strives to facilitate this transition by providing relevant adaptation examples and a forum for knowledge sharing. Our State of Adaptation Program promotes adaptation action by providing real-life, practical adaptation case studies and reports to catalyze creative thinking and action. These assessments allow us to assess professionals’ understanding and concerns about climate change, and identify the current beliefs, policies, and mechanisms that enable and restrict adaptation action.
In the 2011 report, The State of Marine and Coastal Adaptation in North America: A Synthesis of Emerging Ideas, we documented over 150 adaptation projects and initiatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico (Gregg et al. 2011). The report concluded that the majority of activities underway were primarily focused on building awareness of how climate change may affect marine and coastal environments and adaptation planning, with some projects that had advanced into implementation. Progress has been made since then and this updated report and guide shares lessons learned from completed projects, and identifies additional adaptation initiatives from different geographies and partners.
First, we provide a summary of climatic changes, including air and ocean temperatures, precipitation patterns and coastal storms, ocean circulation, sea levels, and ocean chemistry (e.g., pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity), and associated impacts on marine and coastal systems, including species, habitats, ecosystem services, and human communities.
Second, we provide an overview and examples of common barriers to adaptation noted by practitioners, such as funding and budgetary constraints, insufficient staff capacity and technical expertise, limited political will to mandate and enforce implementation, and lack of stakeholder awareness and engagement on climate change.
Third, we present adaptation examples by the following categories:
- Capacity Building: Strategies include conducting research and collecting additional information, conducting training and planning exercises, improving public awareness 6 and education, developing tools and resources, and monitoring impacts and effectiveness of adaptation actions.
- Governance and Policy: Strategies include developing adaptation plans and policies, creating new or enhancing existing policies, and developing adaptive management strategies.
- Infrastructure, Planning, and Development: Strategies include improving existing or designing new infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change, incorporating climate change into community and land use planning, creating or modifying development measures (e.g., removing shoreline hardening, encouraging low-impact development), and developing disaster preparedness plans and policies.
- Natural Resource Management and Conservation: Strategies include enhancing areas under protection, restoring critical habitats, and reducing non-climate stressors.
The report concludes with a discussion of some notable trends from this latest review of marine and coastal U.S. adaptation. In general, most action is focused on the assessment and planning phases of adaptation with more moderate advancements in implementation and evaluation. Progress is being made, although likely not at the pace and scale required to keep up with changing conditions. Additional trends of note include a more intentional focus on advancing equitable adaptation; the use of unified climate projections in decision-making; integration of community concerns in adaptation projects led by conservation organizations; slower uptake and implementation of monitoring and evaluation; and the continuing critical role of the federal government in adaptation.
Gregg RM, Braddock KN. 2021. The State of Climate Adaptation in the Marine and Coastal United States, Territories, and Commonwealths. EcoAdapt, Bainbridge Island, WA.
Cover photos (L-R from top): Public domain images from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Caroline S. Rogers/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Thank you to The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust for providing financial support. Thank you to Jessi Kershner, Claire Anderson, and Sally Ann Sims for providing research, writing, and editing support, and to Jessica Hitt for providing technical support. Finally, thank you to the numerous individuals who contributed materials, participated in interviews and surveys, and provided peer review for this project. We hope that our products will promote and support your adaptation efforts.
- Alaska’s Climate Change Strategy
- Alaskan Marine Artic Conservation Action Plan for the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas
- Considering Climate Change in the Tongass National Forest and Southeast through the Tongass Futures Roundtable
- Documenting Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Northwest Alaska
- Future Climate and Water Availability in Alaska
- Gulf of Mexico Research Plan
- Homer, Alaska Climate Action Plan
- Mapping Future Climate Change in Alaska’s National Parks
- Monitoring Lake Ice and Snow in Alaska – The Alaska Lake Ice and Snow Observatory Network (ALISON) Project
- North Pacific Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity Program
- Relocating the Native Village of Shishmaref, Alaska due to Coastal Erosion
- Relocating the Village of Kivalina, Alaska due to Coastal Erosion
- Relocating the Village of Newtok, Alaska due to Coastal Erosion
- Stream Temperature Monitoring Network for Cook Inlet Salmon Streams
- The Tongass National Forest Conservation Strategy
- Using a Precautionary Approach to Manage North Pacific Fisheries Under Uncertainty
- Alabama’s Baldwin County Grasses in Classes Program
- Building Coastal Resilience in Louisiana: Lake Pontchartrain Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy
- Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan Update
- Creating a Gulf Coast Community Handbook for Restoration and Adaptation
- Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Florida Panhandle, Coastal Mississippi and Coastal Alabama
- Enhancing Flood Resilience with the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan
- Gulf of Mexico Regional Sediment Management Master Plan
- Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lake Borgne Surge Barrier: Resilient Storm Surge Protection for New Orleans
- Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Ecosystem Based Management Project
- Oyster Reef Breakwater Restoration Project on Alabama’s Gulf Coast
- Restoration in Lower Plaquemines Parish: Maximizing Co-benefits for Protecting Critical Infrastructure and Communities through Ecosystem Resilience
- Restoring Three Mile Creek via a Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan
- Sea Level Rise in the Gulf of Mexico: Awareness and Action Tools for the Climate Outreach Community of Practice
- Systematically Prioritizing Restoration Projects in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana
- The Galveston Bay Report Card Coastal Adaptation Initiative
- Using Advocacy to Enhance Gulf Coast Resilience
- Waveland’s Climate-Informed Local Hazard Mitigation Plan Update
- Assessing the Relative Coastal Vulnerability of National Park Units to Sea Level Rise and Lake Level Changes
- Climate Change and the National Marine Protected Areas Center
- Creating a National Adaptation Strategy for the United States: The Interagency Climate change Adaptation Taskforce
- Creating Resilient Water Utilities Program
- Developing a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy for the United States
- Integrating Climate Change into the U.S. National Estuarine Research Reserve System
- Listing Coral Reef Species under U.S. Endangered Species Act
- NOAA 2010 Workshop Series: Habitat Conservation in a Changing Climate
- Planning for Climate Change in the National Park Service
- Planning for Climate Change in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Polar Bear Designation Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act
- Restore America’s Estuaries Climate Action Plan
- The National StormSmart Coasts Network: Linking Coastal Decision Makers to Resources
- U.S. Department of the Interior Climate Change Strategy
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program
- U.S. Global Change Research Program
- Water Utility Climate Alliance
- Adaptation Planning and Action in the Mystic River Watershed
- Adapting People and Nature to Maine’s Changing Climate
- Addressing the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Water Utilities: Boston Water and Sewer Commission
- Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership’s Climate Ready Estuaries
- Assessing Impacts and Developing Adaptation Strategies for Connecticut’s Natural and Built Environments
- Assessing the Risk of 100-year Floods in the Lamprey River Watershed of New Hampshire Resulting from Climate Change and Land Use
- Barnegat Bay Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Development
- City of New Castle, Delaware Coastal Resiliency Action Plan
- ClimAID: Developing a Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Assessment for New York State
- Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Long Island Sound via Sentinel Monitoring
- Climate Change, Coastal Flooding, and Environmental Justice in Urban Boston Communities
- Climate-informed Watershed Restoration on the Elizabeth River
- Coastal Adaptation Planning for the Town of Groton, Connecticut
- Coastal Community Resilience in Maine
- Coastal Resilience Initiatives in Virginia
- Coastal Resilience: Visualizing Climate Change Impacts and Coastal Hazards and Implementing Solutions in Long Island Sound
- Delaware Sea Level Rise Adaptation Initiative
- Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning in Barnstable County, Cape Cod
- From PlaNYC to OneNYC: A Comprehensive Sustainability Plan for New York City
- Helping Massachusetts Coastal Communities Adapt to Climate Change
- Identifying and Reducing Climate Risks to Water Resources in an Eastern Virginia Water Utility
- Identifying Opportunities for Climate Adaptation in the Delaware Estuary
- Implementation of Maryland’s Climate Action Plan
- Including a range of climate effects in planning for Rhode Island’s coastal zone and state waters
- Incorporating Climate Change into Research and Management at Mass Audubon
- Incorporating Climate Change into the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership
- Increasing Coastal Resilience through Restoration and Education in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island
- Increasing Water Management Capability at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to Enhance Resilience
- Integrating Climate Change Adaptation Strategies into Maryland’s Coastal Land Conservation Targeting
- Integrating Climate Change into the Massachusetts State Wildlife Action Plan Using an Expert Panel-based Vulnerability Assessment
- Marshes for Tomorrow Initiative in Coastal Maine
- Maryland’s Coast-Smart Communities Initiative
- Massachusetts Bays Program: An Evaluation of Salt Marsh Vulnerability to Climate Change
- Municipal Adaptations to Create Resilient Beach Communities in Southern Maine: The Coastal Hazard Resiliency Tools Project
- New Jersey Climate Change Adaptation Using Community Plan Endorsements
- New York's Climate Smart Communities Program
- Oyster River Watershed Culvert Study
- Planning for Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge in Worcester County, Maryland
- Planning for Sea Level Rise in Rhode Island’s Coastal Management Program
- Preparing for Climate Change in New York City’s Water Utilities
- Preparing for Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Impacts in Maine
- Getting Wise to Rising Seas in Virginia Beach
- Proactive Incorporation of Sea Level Rise into the Design of the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant
- Rising Waters: Helping Hudson River Communities Adapt to Climate Change
- Scenic Hudson Land Trust: Prioritizing Lands in Light of Sea Level Rise
- Sea Level Rise and Climate Science Program in Coastal Virginia
- Sea Level Rise Guidance for Somerset County, Maryland
- Sea Level Rise Technical Guidance for Dorchester County, Maryland
- Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia
- Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
- Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
- Town of Bowers Beach, Delaware Coastal Resiliency Efforts
- Wellfleet Bay Oyster Reef Habitat Restoration Project
- A Coastal Adaptation Case Story: The Kūlana Noi‘i and Community-Research Partnerships
- A Framework for Climate Change Adaptation in Hawaii
- Adapting to Sea Level Rise and Coastal Erosion in Hawaii
- Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation into the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Management Plan
- Kailua Beach and Dune Management Plan
- Hawai‘i Ocean Resources Management Plan: Planning for Natural, Cultural, and Socioeconomic Needs
- Waihe‘e Refuge Restoration Project
- A Climate Change Action Plan for the Florida Reef Tract
- A Coastal Adaptation Case Story: Catalyst Miami’s Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience (CLEAR) Program
- Adaptation Behavior on the Front Line of Climate Change and Accelerating Sea Level Rise in the Florida Keys
- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge/Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula Climate Adaptation Project
- Broward County Climate Change Task Force and Climate Change Initiatives
- Climate Change and the Florida Keys
- Climate Variability and Water Supply Planning in Tampa Bay
- Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) Project
- Developing a Coastal Resilience Assessment for the Cape Fear River Basin
- Florida Energy and Climate Commission
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Planning for Climate Change
- Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change: Developing an Energy and Climate Action Plan
- Florida Oceans and Coastal Council
- Florida Planning Toolbox: Climate Change Tools
- Florida Reef Resilience Program
- Florida Resilient Coastlines Program
- Florida’s Climate Change Community Toolbox
- Incorporating Climate Change Impacts into Activities in Charlotte Harbor, Florida
- Indian River Lagoon and City of Satellite Beach, Florida Adaptation Project
- Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force and Climate Change Initiatives
- Natural Defenses for Natural Risks: South Carolina’s North Coast Resilience Project
- North Carolina Climate Change Initiative
- North Carolina Sea Level Rise Risk Management Project
- North Florida Land Trust Conservation Priorities
- Peatland Restoration for Climate Resilience and Carbon Sequestration
- Planning for Change in Chatham County, Georgia
- Planning for the Impacts of Sea Level Rise and Climate Change in North Carolina
- Responding to Sea Level Rise under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
- Response to Florida Shelf Ecosystems to Climate Change: The FlaSH Project
- Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report for the City of Wilmington, North Carolina
- Sea Level Rise Strategy for Miami-Dade County
- Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve
- South Carolina’s Shoreline Change Initiative
- Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact
- The Florida Climate Pledge and Community Outreach Initiatives
- The South Florida Sea Level Rise Project
- Tybee Island Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan
- Using Outreach to Catalyze Small Changes in Climate Change Adaptation on Bald Head Island, North Carolina
- A Coastal Adaptation Case Story: The Nuestra Casa Environmental Justice Program
- Adapting to Climate Change in Olympic National Forest
- Adapting to Rising Tides in San Francisco Bay, California
- Adapting to Sea Level Rise in Hayward, California
- Adding the Impacts of Climate Change to Strategic Plan: Big Sur Land Trust
- Alameda County Flood Protection and Salt Pond Restoration
- Aramburu Island Ecological Enhancement Project
- Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium
- California Department of Water Resources Climate Change Initiatives
- California Energy Commission’s Climate Change Research Initiatives
- California’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
- City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Program
- Climate Change Adaptation Planning in San Luis Obispo County
- Climate Change Adaptation Planning in the City of Chula Vista, California
- Climate Change Effects and Management Responses in the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries
- Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations in the Rogue River Basin
- Creating Climate Ready Communities: Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change on the Oregon Coast
- Designing Salt Marsh Conservation Strategies in Elkhorn Slough National Research Reserve
- Developing a Washington State Climate Change Impacts Response Strategy
- Developing Adaptation Strategies for Oregon’s Estuaries
- Effects of Sea Level Rise in Port Susan Bay, Washington
- Estero de Limantour Coastal Watershed Restoration Project
- Goleta Beach 2.0: Managed Retreat to Mitigate Coastal Erosion
- Incorporating Climate Change into Landscape Connectivity Plans
- Incorporating Climate Change into the San Lorenzo Watershed Management Plan
- Kayak Point, Washington Restoration Feasibility and Design: Sea Level Rise Projections
- Malibu Land Use and Local Implementation Plans: Setbacks and Sea Level Rise
- Managed Retreat at Surfer’s Point, California
- Napa River Watershed Flood Protection and Enhancement Project
- North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative
- Northcoast Regional Land Trust: Wood Creek Tidal Marsh Enhancement Project
- Oregon’s Framework to Adapt to Rapid Climate Change
- Planning for Climate Change: A Workshop for San Francisco Bay Area Planners
- Planning for Sea Level Rise in California’s San Francisquito Watershed
- Planning for Sea Level Rise in Olympia, Washington
- Preparing for Climate Change in California’s East Bay Municipal Utility District
- Preparing for Climate Change in California’s State Parks
- Preparing for Climate Change in the Klamath River Basin
- Preparing for Climate Change in the Upper Willamette River Basin
- Preparing for Climate Change on State-Owned Aquatic Lands in Washington State
- Preparing for the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the California Coast
- Responding to Ocean Acidification: The Oyster Emergency Project
- Restoration and Managed Retreat of Pacifica State Beach
- Restoring Tidal Flow and Enhancing Shoreline Resilience in the Nisqually River Delta
- Salt Marsh Vulnerability Assessment and Plans for Adaptation in San Francisco Bay, California
- San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s Climate Change Planning Program
- San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project
- Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
- South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
- The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Planning for Climate Change
- The Climate Adaptation Planning Information System: A Decision Support Tool for Planning for Climate Change in Oregon’s Coastal Communities
- The National Estuarine Research Reserve’s “Planning for Climate Change” Workshop
- The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework
- The Oregon Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Project
- The San Diego Foundation’s Climate Program
- Using Ecosystem-Based Management as an Adaptation Strategy in the Pacific Fishery Management Council
- Using Horizontal Levees to Buffer the Effects of Sea Level Rise in San Francisco Bay
- Using Robust Decision-making as a Tool for Water Resources Planning in Southern California
- Vulnerability of King County, Washington Wastewater Treatment Facilities to Sea Level Rise
- Washington’s Salmon Watcher Program
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